Big changes in NPOESS

A space program suffering from long-running problems, including schedule delays and cost overruns, is radically reshaped in the FY 2011 budget proposal announced Monday. And hardly anyone notices.

Obviously, we’re not talking about Constellation.

Instead, the National Polar-orbiting Operational Satellite System (NPOESS) underwent a shakeup in the budget proposal, right down to its name: it’s now called the Joint Polar Satellite System, at least on the NOAA side. NPOESS has been a joint effort of NOAA, NASA, and DoD to develop a new generation of polar-orbiting weather satellites that can serve both civil government and military weather forecasting and climatology needs. NPOESS, though, had suffered from serious problems that resulted in billions of dollars and cost overruns and schedule slips that caused some to worry about the continuity of weather data from such spacecraft.

Now, instead of being a single combined program, NOAA and NASA will split responsibility for the program with DOD. NOAA/NASA will be responsible for the satellites that will fly in “afternoon” orbits (because they pass over sunlit regions of the Earth at local afternoon) while DOD will take control of the spacecraft that will go in early morning orbits. The two groups will procure their satellites separately; for the civil government side, NASA will perform the acquisition management in much the same way it handles such tasks for NOAA’s geostationary weather satellites.

OSTP has more details about this shift, including details on the responsibilities of the various agencies in the post-NPOESS environment; NOAA’s budget document has some additional information. The change, though, has attracted very little media attention so far: thanks at least in part to NASA’s big announcements, no doubt.

9 comments to Big changes in NPOESS

Leave a Reply




You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>